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CEO Roundtable / State of Industry

This panel packed with fast casual CEOs will talk about important issues restaurant operators face today and what it will take to succeed in 2022 and beyond.


Paul Ballard | Co-Founder & Owner | Ballard Brands & Ideation Hospitality

Paul Ballard is an owner of Ballard Brands, LLC, a leader in the food and beverage industry, including PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans, WOW Café American Grill & Wingery, The Original City Diner, New Orleans Roast, Ole Saint Kitchen & Tap, and Boardhouse Sandwiches. Paul is the founder of WOW Café American Grill & Wingery and has been a franchisee of PJ’s Coffee for over 25 years. A lifelong New Orleanian and graduate of Tulane University, Paul has served as a Board of Directors member for The Youth Service Bureau, Alumni Board for Rockmont Christian Camp For Boys, and former US Lacrosse President for Louisiana.

Peter Boylan III | President | Ballard Brands & IdEATion Hospitality

Peter J. Boylan III is President and CEO for Ballard Brands and idEATion Hospitality. He joined Ballard Brands in 2009 on their Board of Advisors. Prior to being President and CEO he was Chief Development Officer and expanded the company’s footprint across the U.S. as well as several international markets. Peter has over 20 years of professional and executive leadership experience in a wide variety of companies including public, private, venture capital and private equity. He earned an MBA from Wake Forest University’s Babcock Graduate School of Management and a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in Aerospace Engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Jim Holthouser | CEO | FOCUS Brands

Jim Holthouser is the Chief Executive Officer for Focus Brands, parent company of Auntie Anne’s, Carvel®, Cinnabon, Jamba, Moe’s Southwest Grill, McAlister’s Deli, Schlotzsky’s, and Seattle’s Best Coffee (in certain military bases and in certain international markets). Jim is leading Focus Brands into its next phase of growth for its seven market-leading brands while driving results and profitability for franchisees, with a focus on delivering an exceptional customer experience. He was also named as one of the top 25 Executives on Fast Casual’s Movers & Shakers 2021 list. Jim brings more than 30 years of experience in worldwide brand development, concept innovation, franchise management and digital marketing.

Anthony Russo | President | Russo’s New York Pizzeria

President and CEO of Russo’s New York Pizzeria & Italian Kitchen, Anthony began franchising his stores over 20 years ago. The son of first-generation Italian immigrants, growing up in New Jersey, there was always cooking and baking at home. Using the family recipe for hand-tossed dough, sauce made from fresh-crushed California vine-ripened tomatoes, and imported Italian cheese blends, Anthony became the sole owner and chef of his first restaurant Russo’s Pizza in the early 80’s. A few years later, he created Anthony’s Pizzeria. For almost a decade, Anthony refined his menu using classic Italian family recipes and honed in on the perfect New York-style pizza.

Dan Simpson | CEO | Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe

Dan Simpson was named CEO of Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe in February 2018 after serving as the Chief Innovation Officer starting in May 2016. Previously, he was a Taziki’s franchisee and managing partner at Fresh Hospitality from January 2015 until May 2016. Dan was the founder and CEO of ToGo Technologies from May 2012 until January 2015. He was the Chief Development Officer of Dispensary of Hope, Nashville, Tennessee from May 2008 until May 2012. He earned his BS in Science from Clearwater Christian College followed by his MBA from West Virginia University. Dan serves on the boards of the Shalom Foundation/Moore Pediatric Surgery Center and Dovehouse Ministries and is a member of TedXNashville Society of Fellows.

Susan Taylor | President & CEO | Juice It Up!

A highly successful restaurant industry veteran with over 30 years of experience, Susan Taylor joined the Juice It Up! family in 2019 as VP of Operations and Business Development and was promoted to President and CEO of the brand in early-2020. Susan has served in various leadership roles for national franchise chains including 14 years at Jamba, where she was the Senior Director of Franchise Operations, Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill, Baja Fresh and Chevy’s Fresh Mex. Under her leadership, Juice It Up! has built upon its diverse offerings by putting a heavier focus on product innovation and ingredient functionality. Since coming on board, Susan has spearheaded initiatives that have dramatically improved both the guest-and franchisee-facing experience.


Cherryh Cansler | VP of Events | Networld Media Group

Before joining Networld Media Group as Vice President of Events, Cherryh Cansler spent several years as VP of Editorial managing the company’s nine B2B publications. Throughout her 20-year career as a journalist, she’s written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness news. Her byline has appeared in a plethora of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for

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